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How to Buy a Tiny House: A Miniguide to Going Small

April 25, 2019


Love the idea of living in a tiny house? You and the rest of the world! But before you purge all of your belongings and sell your regular-size place, you’d better get a bit more acquainted with what’s involved with buying an itty-bitty abode. Let’s take a look.

What is a tiny house?

The typical home in America is 2,600 square feet. In order to be officially considered “tiny,” a house has to be 400 square feet or less (excluding lofts), according to the International Code Council.

Important to note: Some tiny homes are set onto foundations, just like traditional houses, while others are on wheels and can be moved anywhere you have the space to move them.

How much does a tiny house cost?

Tiny homes typically don’t cost as much as a regular ones, but that doesn’t mean they’re cheap: If you hire a builder to erect one from scratch, you should be prepared to shell out as much as $125,000, “depending on the size of the home, customization options, and off-the-grid options like water tanks, solar panels, and generators,” says Brian Hawkins, founder and CEO of Tiny House Movement.

If you want to reduce costs, you can try building your tiny house yourself (or at least parts of it), which can bring costs down to below $50,000.

How do you finance a tiny house?

“If the home is on a foundation, you can use a traditional lender just like any other home,” Hawkins explains. But securing financing for a tiny home isn’t as straightforward as some buyers might expect.

While traditional lenders are willing to loan hundreds of thousands for a sizable home, they’re often reluctant to lend to tiny-home buyers. The problem is the appraisal: Unless you live in an area with an abundance of tiny homes, there aren’t usually enough comparable properties nearby for the appraiser to determine the house’s value. No appraisal, no loan.

If you’re committed to tiny-home living and curious about financing alternatives, you have a few options:

  • A personal loan: Tiny homes on wheels are considered personal property, which may relegate you to a personal unsecured loan (a regular home mortgage, on the other hand, is a secured loan where you provide your house as collateral if you default on paying it back). The downside with personal loans is it is likely to have higher rates and shorter terms.
  • An RV loan: Some forward-thinking lenders like LightStream (a division of SunTrust) are designing their RV loans to be easy for tiny-house buyers to get. Certain tiny-house builders (e.g., Tumbleweed) build their homes to meet all of the criteria for an RV loan and have a financing option built into their buying process.
  • Crowdfunding: Because the tiny-house trend has attracted so much attention, there are networks of people willing to pool their money to invest in financing for them, according to Ethan Waldman of Here’s more on how to finance a tiny house.


Where can you put a tiny house?

Tiny homes are in a gray area when it comes to zoning, according to Shawn Breyer, owner of Breyer Home Buyers, in Suwanee, GA.

To start, you’ll need to start by calling your planning or zoning department to ask about local ordinances: Are there any restrictions on areas where you’re thinking of building? How are tiny homes zoned, and where are tiny homes allowed?

Some areas are more tiny-home-friendly than others. Certain communities (e.g., Philadelphia and Florida’s Sarasota County) have no size restrictions for tiny houses as long as they meet building codes for safety. Other jurisdictions (e.g., Colorado’s El Paso County) have adopted new legislation to allow tiny homes wherever mobile homes are allowed.

Here’s more on where to build a tiny house.

Tiny house vs. ADU: What’s the difference?

Certain cities allow tiny houses to be built as accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, which means they can be put on a property that already has a larger residential home. Many cities and counties limit ADUs to 1,200 square feet or less.

“Your zoning department can give you the lowdown, but the path of least resistance will be a neighborhood zoned for ADUs or mother-in-law apartments,” says Breyer.

To find out more info for a particular area, check the national, state, and local regulations compiled by the American Tiny House Association.

Are tiny houses a good investment?

Tiny homes on wheels hold their value very well, says Hawkins, but if you want to be more assured of eventually coming out ahead, you need one with a foundation.

“Those with a foundation are appreciating quicker than the mobile variety right now,” says Hawkins. (Just like a regular residential home, the “real” value lies in the property it sits on.)

Are tiny houses hard to sell?

Not hard, exactly, but you’ll need to be patient.

“Tiny homes are a novelty and are highly niched inventory,” says Breyer.

The handful he’s sold took 37 days longer to move, on average, than normal-size, single-family homes.

Is a tiny house right for you?

There’s plenty of appeal in the idea of tiny-home living, especially for younger couples or empty nesters ready to downsize. But that limited square footage can get tight quickly.

Hawkins says three years is about the average amount of time tiny-home dwellers he knows have chosen to stay in their house. But while they might upgrade to a microhome—say, 600 square feet—they typically don’t move back to a traditionally sized residence.

“I don’t [know] anyone who’s gone back to a regular-sized home after taking the leap to live tiny,” Hawkins says.

Wondering if there are tiny homes for sale in your area? Check out’s listings.

The post How to Buy a Tiny House: A Miniguide to Going Small appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

What Is a Micro-Apartment? Even Tinier Than a Tiny House. A Huge Trend Explained

October 24, 2018

What is a micro-apartment? It’s the urban equivalent of a tiny house—a small dwelling, typically under 300 square feet, some as little as 100—that is gaining popularity in pricey cities where larger apartments are financially out of reach.

These pint-sized pads give people a chance to live in the thick of things without blowing their paycheck … that is, if they’re willing to do some serious downsizing. Here’s the lowdown on micro-apartments, where you can find them, and how they make diminutive dwellings far more comfortable than you might imagine.

Where to find micro-apartments

A decade ago, micro-apartments would have been illegal in most cities. But the dearth of affordable housing options for singletons and lower-income individuals prompted a change in zoning regulations so developers could build smaller dwellings to meet this pent-up demand.

“Cities like New York City had size regulations amended in order to accommodate construction for these über small apartments,” says Steven Giles, a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman.

In 2015, New York City unveiled its first micro-apartment building, Carmel Place, leasing units as small as 260 square feet. Their clever design—fold-out beds, mini-balconies, space-saving services to stock your fridge and do your laundry—made living in a shoebox seem so chic, a bunch of other developers began carving up their own properties into smaller parcels.

micro apartment
A micro-apartment at Carmel Place in New York City

Carmel City

Other cities that have embraced the growing mini-apartment trend include Boston (Factory 63), Washington, DC (Moda17), Denver (Turntable Studios), and Houston (The Ivy Lofts). San Francisco, notorious for its exorbitant rents, features Panoramic, a micro-apartment project located in the SoMa neighborhood.

micro apartment
A micro-apartment at Panoramic in San Francisco


Main features of micro-apartments

Recognizing that certain features can go a long way toward making a small space appear large, many micro-apartments boast high ceilings, large windows, and balconies, which create the illusion of space. Rooftop decks, patios, and other common areas offer a chance to entertain guests without needing to squeeze them into your cramped “home” per se.

Within these units, modular furnishings create a flexible space that can serve different needs, depending on what’s desired. A comfortable, 5-foot sofa with a hidden queen wall bed conveniently opens with one hand, while the coffee table converts to a work desk or dining table. Micro-units may also feature sleek, full-service kitchens. Others have kitchenettes, with two stove burners instead of the usual four and a slimmer fridge.

Some micro-apartments have desirable amenities such as free Wi-Fi and housekeeping, which make tiny spaces that much more tolerable. Others come furnished, so you can avoid the potential headache of figuring out how to fit your futon or Murphy bed in on your own.

How much do micro-apartments cost?

If you’ve had your heart set on living in a coveted but pricey location and don’t have the funds to pay up for a large space, these micro-units might be the solution you and your budget have been dreaming of. But don’t assume that their small size means they’re cheap.

Depending on where you choose to live, you’ll still pay a pretty penny compared to what you’d get in the ’burbs. For example, units in Manhattan’s fully occupied Carmel Place range from roughly 260 to 350 square feet, and still command upwards of $2,500 per month. In Los Angeles, One Santa Fe rents 474-square-foot studios for $1,975 per month.

Micro-apartments are primarily prominent in the rental market, but there are exceptions out there. In Washington, DC, buyers can pick up condos ranging from 350 to 680 square feet in the ultra-hip Adams Morgan neighborhood for $249,000 to $549,000. New York City also offers micro apartments for sale, such as this Greenwich Village studio at $479,000 (pictured below).

micro apartment
A micro apartment for sale in New York City

Is a micro-apartment for you?

If you long for big-city life on a budget but crave more privacy than you’d have with roommates, micro-apartments may be just the ticket. If you’re single and focused on your career, chances are you’re not spending a ton of time at home anyway. Why pay an outrageous amount for a place where you only sleep and shower?

“Renters for micro-apartments are often young, single millennials,” Giles says. “In some cases, micro-apartments are offered as affordable housing, where there’s an income ceiling in order to qualify. Some people are looking for an alternative to the traditional picket fence and backyard, and I think micro-apartment living factors into housing alternatives.”

All of which suggests that you can expect to see this micro-apartment trend just get bigger and bigger.

The post What Is a Micro-Apartment? Even Tinier Than a Tiny House. A Huge Trend Explained appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.